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Game Review

Retro City Rampage: DX Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

A Blast From the Recent Past

About one year ago, Vblank Entertainment released Retro City Rampage on WiiWare. While it had also been released in other forms, it served as a notable last breath for Nintendo's first serious digital marketplace. It was a solid game that we enjoyed with some reservations, but the developers made no secret about the unlikelihood of turning a profit with the WiiWare version. It was a labour of love, and considering how much nostalgic fondness for Nintendo's golden age was packed inside, proved to be a perfect fit for the service.

Of course, since then we've seen a marked improvement in Nintendo's digital platforms, and Retro City Rampage DX makes a return trip in handheld form with some additional goodies in tow. Are they enough to warrant a second (or third, or fourth) purchase for those who already own the copy? Well, we can't quite promise you that, but we can say it's a must-play in some form, and if you haven't gotten around to it yet, there's no time like the present.

If you've read our review of the WiiWare game then you know more or less what to expect. Retro City Rampage DX doesn't deviate much from the original on the surface. You still take control of a protagonist simply named "Player" and guide him through a deliberately absurd storyline that involves time travel, organised crime, gorilla robots, and lots and lots of dead bystanders.

The humour is thick; in fact it's so thick that it can at first feel oppressive. However once you make it through the handful of training missions, the game opens up substantially, and you can keep both the comedy and the action rolling at your own pace. While some of the jokes tend toward the laughter of recognition rather than clever observation, other comic moments — such as an early chronological paradox and intentionally nonsensical dialogue — rely on a more intelligent sort of detached meta-awareness. It's a game that wants you to laugh both when someone slips on a banana peel, and then laugh again two hours after you've stopped playing it because some bit of subtle wordplay has finally clicked. Nobody will laugh at everything, but everybody will laugh at something.

Retro City Rampage takes the kitchen sink approach with both its comedic sensibilities and its gameplay. While the city-wide, open-ended anarchy is a clear homage to Grand Theft Auto — particularly the earliest titles in that series — there are sequences that deliberately ape classic games from Super Mario Bros. to Paperboy to Contra to Crazy Taxi.

And all of that is in the main game; further gameplay deviations come with optional mini-games, notably those based on fellow indie darlings Super Meat Boy and BIT.TRIP RUNNER. What's more, we haven't even scratched the surface. Listing every surprise lying in wait for gamers would not only spoil the fun, but it would require a review several pages long.

Player's humourously self-serving crime spree is simply a framework upon which to hang genuine, uninterrupted fun. If you want to master the mini-games and collect your rewards, you can do that. If you want to methodically work your way through the game's main objectives, you can do that. If you want to ignore everything entirely and go on a rocket-launcher rampage, you can do that, too. In fact, the game even scatters cheat codes around the city, to help you achieve the arsenal of your dreams without actually having to work for it.

There are extended missions requiring slow, carefully-considered movements, and seconds-long ones that encourage the immediate roasting of as many pedestrians as possible. It's easy to spend hours with it, and just as easy to limit yourself to minutes. Retro City Rampage doesn't seem to care if you "finish" the game or not; it simply wants you to enjoy yourself along the way, and if you're not interested in seeing the storyline through to its predictably absurd conclusion, it still offers enough to keep you busy otherwise.

But that's always been the case. The question is what the DX version on the 3DS adds to the mix. Funnily enough, one thing it doesn't add is 3D.

It does, however, feature all of the patches and upgrades that other versions of the game have received in the past year, smoothing out the gameplay a bit and balancing the difficulty a little better. More checkpoints have been added — making death less of a punishment — and weapons have been tweaked. Your movement while firing is now less limited, and there's a very welcome method of shaking the police simply by, well, killing them. If you clear all of those in pursuit and collect a small icon that they drop, you can go about your business without further hindrance. Considering how frequently you're likely to incur the wrath of the law, this is a nice change.

Unfortunately some of the tweaks rob the game of its original spirit. The punishing difficulty of the WiiWare title is one of the things that gave it identity. Like the similarly violent Hotline Miami, Retro City Rampage demanded perfection, but left it up to the player to decide what that perfection would look like. That is to say, it was always easy to die, but you also had a limitless array of solutions at your fingertips. You could run in with guns blazing if you were comfortable dodging the return fire, or you could pitch grenades and retreat if you weren't. You could sneak around enemies and escape undetected, or you could deliberately lead them away, lose them, and waltz over to your target undisturbed. Retro City Rampage didn't care how you handled yourself, so long as you did handle yourself.

Retro City Rampage DX, though, is a bit too forgiving. It's rare that you will die and end up much further back for it, meaning there's far less of the white-knuckled tactical urgency of the original game, and more blind experimentation in search of eventual luck. It's a change that will undoubtedly be welcomed by some players, but others will find Retro City Rampage DX less rewarding for the pulled punches.

One thing that is very nice, though, is the game's integration of the touch screen. While you can do nearly anything with the buttons, the simple fact that you have a nice map on display at all times is a huge navigational help, and it also adds an additional challenge to the game; glancing down to consult your map while you're speeding through the city is just as dangerous as that would be in real life. Take your eyes off the road long enough to orient yourself, and you may not be ready to react to the next obstacle or turn. It's a nice wrinkle that only works because of the second screen, and it allows Retro City Rampage DX to show a host of options and information at all times without cluttering up the playing area.

Ultimately, though, the main difference between this and the WiiWare version is simple: portability. While Retro City Rampage's throwback aesthetic felt very much at home on a couch with a controller in our hands, we found that it's just as welcome an experience on a handheld device, as it's suited for both quick bursts of gaming and longer, more involved sessions.

Retro City Rampage DX is pretty much everything it has to be. It's an improved version of an already strong game, and even if some of the tweaks can be considered downgrades, the portability, smoothness, excellent soundtrack and densely-packed humour come together to make this an easy recommendation for those who haven't yet had the pleasure of mowing down little pixel people in a stolen taxi cab.


Retro City Rampage DX is not quite a flawless version of the game, but it does improve somewhat upon an already solid foundation. With more forgiving gameplay that arguably saps some of its spirit and a complete lack of 3D, the biggest selling point here is going to be its portability. Fortunately that's a huge selling point, as Retro City Rampage lends itself to short bursts of cathartic chaos at least as well as it does to longer play sessions. If you have a 3DS and no version of the game already, this download should be a no-brainer. If you do already have a copy, then it's up to you how much the relatively minor tweaks are worth. Taken on its own merits, though, free from comparison to the earlier versions, it's hard to see Retro City Rampage DX as anything less than a deranged masterpiece.

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User Comments (53)



unrandomsam said:

How do the controls work without the circlepad pro (For which support was removed).

What is the L button used for ? (Dpad and L button constantly for any length of time is not comfortable for me).



6ch6ris6 said:

running around killing people has nothing to do with anarchy, nintendolife.

"The word anarchy comes from the ancient Greek ἀναρχία, anarchia, from ἀν an, "not, without" + ἀρχός arkhos, "ruler", meaning "absence of a ruler", "without rulers")."



Spoony_Tech said:

Nope, too many games to play. Will put on my wish list for further down the road. I will resist!




I found it hard to comprehend what was going on with this game when I played it on WiiWare. So I gave up.



ricklongo said:

I was thinking of buying this right away, but Bravely Default is probably gonna demand 100% of my handheld playing time for the next few weeks. Will get it afterwards.



Philip_J_Reed said:

running around killing people has nothing to do with anarchy, nintendolife.

Where do we define anarchy as running around killing people? This is a game that features anarchy (an absence — or at least an optional ignorance — of definite rules) and also features running around killing people. We're not suggesting they're the same thing; we're mentioning both as being identifying aspects of the game.

How do the controls work without the circlepad pro

The controls work great, and to be totally frank I'm not sure the CPP could have improved things much. You won't have to worry about using the L button along with the D-pad, as you fire with Y. R cycles through the weapons, but you can also tap the current weapon on the touch screen to access a menu instead.



Gustoff said:

Got the game last night and i can say that it is just pure retro awesomeness! For those asking about the controls with no CPP support, i can say that you won't miss the CPP at all. It would've been nice to have the option just to see how it would play with the CPP. However, I grew up in the 80's with only the D-pad and the A and B buttons. So i don't really care much for the CPP for this retro goodness. Just my opinion. This new generation of gamers with thumb sticks and circle pads might think different.



Gustoff said:

The game plays great. I like the fact that you can pretty much do what you want when you want. Now i feel like going to Gamestop and snatching up a copy of GTA Chinatown Wars to have a more current style open world on my 3DS. Hope i find a copy this weekend when i'm out and about.



dumedum said:

One of my favorite games, but the WiiWare version is perfect enough for me.



ToniK said:

Never played this so definitely gonna get when this hits the euroshop. I get so much Turtles on NES vibe from the car and the dude.



Stu13 said:

Already have the WiiWare version, but looking at some of the Miiverse screenshots and this review are really making me want this one as well.



DerpSandwich said:

If I ever get this, it's good to hear that the 3DS version is good. With retro visuals I always prefer the handheld experience. (Which of course makes me mad that I've got all these great SNES games on my Wii U.)



Giygas_95 said:

I was a little bit disappointed at the lack of 3D. I would love to turn it on along with the Virtual Boy screen filter and have a Virtual Boy mock-up, but other than that, it's a really fun game!



RR529 said:

Seems good, and as I've never played it before, it's going on my "Wish List".



epicdude12302 said:

I've been waiting for this so long that I almost downloaded it instantly yesterday when I saw it on the eshop! It's good to know that it was worth the wait!



suburban_sensei said:

Glad to see the 9/10, the game deserves it. Had this for the 360, and for somebody like me (born in '87, but more of a 90's kid.) this game is ideal. It was so good that, since I don't have my 360 anymore, I had been holding out on this release because I think the graphics and gameplay really lend themselves better to a portable/smaller screen experience.



sleepinglion said:

I love the zoomed in look of the 3DS version and wish the original had this feature. A solid release and totally worth it for retro NES fans.



BinaryFragger said:

Already have it on the Vita but well-worth buying again... the map on the bottom screen is a nice touch. Love the Duck Hunt references shortly after the game's beginning.



TysonOfTime said:

Ok, I'll pick this up. I was gonna save my eShop Credit for Pheonix Wright, but thye stupid age lock is stopping me and they haven't said anything about fixing it or allowing for a Parental Consent option.



NESguy94 said:

I just picked this up. I played through the XBOX360 download it on XBLA but decided it would be fun to have on the go.



Philip_J_Reed said:

I think the article should be edited to also review the Circle Pad Pro controls.

I would, but the game doesn't have Circle Pad Pro controls.



Gioku said:

I am having an absolute blast with this game! I can't put it down!

...I love the graphics style, I love the endless amounts of things to do, I love all the wondeful references and satire, I love everything about it!



aj_fowl said:

@unrandomsam I haven't missed the twin stick shooting. The auto-aim is quite good and feels rights for this game. If you hold down the L button your character fires in whatever direction you point the circle pad or d-pad in. I don't find myself using it much.



M0rdresh said:

I hate to say this, but I doubt it beats "Retro City Rampage" on the Vita, which is a very impressive version. Still going to pick this up on my 3DS XL though



3dcaleb said:

so does it really have zero use of the 3d? even in the racing mini games and everything? i heard u can use 3d glasses in parts of it in the wii version. is the entire game, beginning to end, completely flat?



3dcaleb said:

damn. i was for sure set on getting this but now no 3d, no cpp, and now bugs to top it off? i'm really having second thoughts. it looked so awesome i was waiting forever and looking foreward to it. i hope its still worth getting. after they fix it i'll think it over again.



Agent721 said:

Got this game for free via Playstation Plus....played it for 10 minutes and never played it again. I love retro gaming, but for me this feels terribly flat, with mediocre controls and graphics that to me simply don't do justice to the source material. I was highly looking forward to it, but found it highly disappointing.



Anguspuss said:

well decided to take a punt always like the idea. Plus after they got nothing for wii version its good they are going make some money this time around



Glaceon said:

This is such an awesome game! Its like GTA but for 3DS! I just love this game.



Mus1cLov3r said:

This game is marvelous! It's filled to the brim with references from video-games, movies, music and more! And the graphics? Wonderful!



Priceless_Spork said:

I own this on the wii also so I also have the original edition but the 3ds DX is essential. Too much endless fun for one person. Desert island game #1. However its also a great party game. I require an analytical review. . I appriciate this review as being true. However. They cant tell you perhaps but I can. I f you are with a group of adults it is often fun get your mind in order and to go on killing sprees and take out all your aggression against your real life on this thing in extremely satisfying ways. You can even take turns with your similar minded friends to see who can die the fastest and most horribly. I cant give this game higher praise. Most fun game man. All rebel souls thank the makers of this.

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